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GUNG HEI FAT CHOY! Sheep, dragons ... and lettuce!

Published: 20 February, 2015
by TOM FOOT
>>Click here to read our Chinese New Year 2015 supplement in Pagesuite

GUNG HEI FAT CHOY! Celebrations for the Year of the Sheep begin on Sunday when Chinatown and the West End will be transformed with live music, food, dance and the fun-packed lion and dragon dance parades.

Chinese New Year as a whole is a 15-day celebration, and each day many families rotate celebrations between homes of their relatives.

The main event kicks off with the fun-packed parade starting at 10am at the north of Trafalgar Square and ending in Shaftesbury Avenue. From noon until 1pm there will be a dragon and lion dance performance at the Trafalgar Square Stage.

The main event in Chinatown starts at noon with lion dance performers visiting Chinese businesses until around 5pm.

According to ancient custom, business owners must leave large vegetables – usually a lettuce – above the doors of their shops for good luck. Part of the fun is when the dancing dragon rears up on its hind legs and grabs the lettuce.

The dragon is present in many Chinese cultural celebrations as the Chinese people often think of themselves as descendants of the mythical creature. The dragon represents prosperity, good luck and good fortune.

There will dozens of food stalls with 17 different Asian cuisines on offer and there will be special Chinese New Year dishes on offer at more than 80 restaurants.

There will be specialist crafts and martial arts displays while up-and-coming musicians perform Canto pop (Cantonese Pop) and K Pop (Korean Pop) acts live on stage.

Holby City star Jing Lusi, who recently appeared in Amy Herzog’s award-winning Broadway play 4,000 Miles, is the event’s host and at 1.30pm will announce the Cultures of China – Festival of Spring, which is a grand performance organised by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China. 

At 3.30pm the Red Poppy Ladies Percussions Group – China’s top female percussion band who choreographed the drum sequences at the Beijing Games opening ceremony – will perform live on stage in Trafalgar Square. Between 5pm and 6pm there will be a grand finale on Trafalgar Square stage.  

Based on the lunar and solar calendars, the actual date of Chinese New Year varies, but always falls between late January and mid-February. 

Despite celebrations taking place this year, many Chinese believe it is not the best of luck to be born in the Year of the Sheep. According to moon-based intuition, they are considered polite, clever and kind-hearted but also shy, pessimistic, moody and indecisive. 

Many people regard the festivities as an omen for the upcoming year and it is common for Chinese people to avoid using words such as “death”, “broken”, “killing”, “ghost” and “illness” or “sickness” during conversations at this time of year.  

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